The popular pink salt isn’t just for sprinkling over dinner or a soothing bath anymore. Himalayan salt lamps have made their way from specialty apothecaries into decor magazines. The lamps are made from solid Himalayan salt from Pakistan. They are lit from the inside with a bulb, and the combination gives off a relatively dim, amber light.
The appeal isn’t just visual. Many believe that salt lamps have health benefits from curing asthma to detoxing a room. Manufacturers of the lamps claim they release helpful negative ions into the room and clean the air. But do they really work?
The benefits of negative air ionization were discovered by accident in a 1998 study on seasonal affective disorder (SAD). The study showed that high-intensity negative ion treatments can reduce chronic depression and SAD. Other studies have showed similar results.
In the studies, negative air ionization is created with a machine that adds an electron to oxygen molecules to create a negative ion. Negative ions are also created in nature by crashing ocean waves, radiation, and even sunlight. These ions are believed to increase the amount of oxygen in the blood, but researchers are still looking into their exact influence on the body.
So far there are no scientific studies on the ability of Himalayan salt lamps to produce negative ions. However, the few ions, if any, emitted by the salt lamp are different from the negative air ion machines used in clinical studies, according to the Columbia University Medical Center. The Negative Ion Information Center attempted to test the amount of ions released by a popular salt lamp and found that the negative ion emissions were so low that they could barely be measured.
There is also no evidence that the salt lamps have the same effects on SAD and chronic depression.
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There are specific negative ion generators, like the ones used in the studies, that provide high-frequency ionization. However, be sure to avoid commercial air ionizing machines like ion air purifiers that produce harmful ozone as a byproduct. The California EPA has a list of potentially hazardous generators.
Indoor air pollution is one of the top five environmental health risks, according to the EPA. Poor indoor air quality can lead to health problems, especially for children. Between rising awareness of volatile organic compounds in our homes and particulate in the air, it’s no surprise that people want to improve their indoor air quality.
Many Himalayan salt lamp companies claim that their lamps will help remove dust and pollution from the air with negative ions. These ions have been shown to kill dust mites and cling to dust to make filtration or clean up easier, but it takes a very high powered ion generator to do so.
A Himalayan crystal salt lamp likely isn't going to do the trick. It doesn’t put off enough negative ions to help remove air particulates. There is no evidence that the lamp can absorb toxins. There isn’t even proof that sodium chloride, a stable compound, can absorb toxins through the air.
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Houseplants are a great way to improve indoor air quality. Not only do they add oxygen, many plants absorb volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other harmful chemicals from the air. Commercial air purifiers don’t remove these gaseous chemicals from the air, according to the EPA. However, opening a window or two does help clear them out of your home.
If you struggle with asthma or allergies, you may also benefit from an air purification system or machine, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology Indoor Allergen Committee. Air purifiers with high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters can reduce the amount of particulate in the air and improve asthma symptoms. You can also install a high-efficiency filter on your forced air system to help remove particulates.
Activated carbon can remove odors from your home and help your space smell fresh. There are also air filters for forced air systems that include carbon to help filter out smells from the entire home.
There is no evidence that Himalayan salt lamps release negative ions or clean the air. The best way to add negative ions to your home is with a commercial ionization machine that can produce high-density ionization.
If you are really worried about particulates or allergens in your home, a good air-filtration system or air purifier can be helpful. However, these filters and devices are not necessary for the average healthy person, according to the University of Rochester Medical Center.
As for VOCs, the EPA recommends opening windows and preventing the materials from entering your space in the first place by using cleaning products, furniture, and construction materials that are VOC-free.
But all hope is not lost for Himalayan salt lamps. Much like a lit candle, these lamps can be relaxing to look at. If you find the light soothing or enjoy its style, there is no harm in adding one to your home.